A Guide on How to Effectively Write an Academic Research Paper
Writing research papers is a fundamental aspect of academia that plays a key role in developing and disseminating knowledge accurately. It serves to communicate new findings, ideas, and theories to a broader audience within the scholarly community. Research paper writing is a systematic approach to investigating, analysing, and synthesising information.
The importance of research papers lies in their ability to enhance the collective understanding of a subject, generate new insights, and encourage critical thinking and problem-solving skills. In this blog, we venture into the meticulous process and various aspects of research paper writing; from carefully choosing a research topic to overcoming common challenges, this blog is your pocket guide to advancing your research writing skills.
Choosing an Appropriate Topic
The first step to choosing a research topic is to identify the specialism and subject area that your research would be relevant to and thoroughly study the research that is already available within the field; this will reveal the gaps of research within the subject.
There are 2 ways in which the gaps in research can be approached; either by adding new aspects to prevalent topics or moving away from the trending topics and venturing into a lesser-explored part. Working on new research provides the subject with a fresh perspective that can lead to newer advancements than adding to a prevalent topic. However, working on a prevalent topic offers an array of credible citations and previous research.
The way your research question is phrased should invoke exploration and inquiry from readers, while also accurately describing the matter that the research paper will be exploring and investigating.
Conducting the Research
To execute reliable scholarly research there are a number of measures to be taken. From laying the initial research framework to executing primary research, it is beneficial to place careful strategies at every phase of the research process. The following steps break down the recommended research flow.
- Execute preliminary exploration: Before diving into primary and secondary research, conduct a preliminary exploration of the topic. Familiarize yourself with existing knowledge, theories, and research findings related to your area of interest.
- Develop a research plan: Create a research plan that outlines how to efficiently gather the required information. Identify the sources you will require (e.g., scholarly articles, books, primary sources) and research methods you will apply (e.g., surveys, experiments, interviews). A well-structured plan will ensure a systematic approach to your research.
- Utilise credible sources: Rely on credible sources to gather information. Academic journals, databases, books, and reputable websites are excellent starting points. Evaluate the credibility of sources by considering factors such as author expertise, publication date, peer-review process, and the reputation of the publishing platform. Here are some recommended reliable databases: Google Scholar, Zendy, IEEE, EBSCO
- Take effective notes: As you gather information, take organized and concise notes. Summarize key points, record bibliographic details, and note any relevant concepts or ideas. Properly cite and reference your sources to avoid plagiarism and ensure accurate attribution.
- Analyze and synthesize information: Once you have collected a substantial amount of data, analyze and synthesize the information to draw meaningful conclusions. Identify patterns, trends, and relationships within the data and critically evaluate the findings in relation to your research question. Identify any gaps in the existing literature that your research could address.
- Ethical considerations: Adhere to ethical guidelines throughout your research process. Obtain necessary permissions, protect participant confidentiality, and ensure the ethical use of data. Familiarize yourself with the ethical standards set by your institution or discipline and maintain integrity in your research practices.
Structuring the Research Paper
The structure of the research paper ensures a smooth flow of research. This showcases the author’s thoroughness on the available literature and how their own research affects the trajectory of the subject. Each component of the research paper presents evidence-based explanations of the approaches to the methodology, analysis and literature review sections. The structure is designed to present the transition of the research stages appropriately.
A) Title and Abstract
The title and abstract page of the research paper is the reader’s first impression. It should be written in a completely objective tone and should allow the reader to accurately skim and gain insight into the gist of the research aims and findings.
The introduction section gives the reader a thorough background into your research area. Your topic can be introduced as a broad subject and then narrowed down to your specific research question, this provides the reader with an understanding of your positioning within your field of study.
The introduction section has 5 main goals:
- Introduce the field of study
- Present and summarise existing literature
- Establish your approach
- Describe the problem statement that the paper will investigate
- Provide an overview of the research paper’s structure
Example: The field of Marine Biology gains more traction as debates on marine pollution cause controversy in media outlets (Introduction to field). According to Smith (2022), one of the leading causes of marine pollution is the increase in plastic within the oceans, which leads to habitat destruction. This suggests that human water activities are contributing to the decline in the longevity of marine life (Present and summarize literature). This research paper aims to thoroughly investigate the extent of sea tourism in key regions and establish a comprehensive comparison of the state of the marine life within these regions (Establish approach). Furthermore, this paper highlights the threats that water activities pose to the trajectory of research within marine biology and investigates whether potential safety measures or ceasing human water activities would be more effective in preserving marine life (Description of problem statement). This research paper will present a comprehensive literature review that analyses recent debates, findings and incidents in marine life that have been directly caused by human activities and then highlight the key methodologies utilised to investigate and compare water tourism against the state of marine life in key regions; additionally, the paper consists of a thorough analysis of the findings and proposes safer practices (Structure of research paper).
C) Literature Review
The literature review is an important component of any research paper, it serves as a thorough analysis and evaluation of the available sources, debates, themes and gaps within the respective field of study. This section is the researcher’s opportunity to discuss and present all the relevant sources to exhibit their own familiarity and positioning on the subject.
A well-written literature review depicts and presents a thorough analysis, criticism and identification of on-going debates and studies within the field, this information is not just presented and cited but also dissected.
Listed below are a few beneficial questions to cross-check when writing a literature review.
- Trends: Which theories and methodologies are more referenced and utilised?
- Themes: What concepts and debates persist across the sources?
- Debates and conflicts: Where do the sources disagree and why?
- Critical publications: Any influential theories or studies that changed the direction of the field?
- Gaps: What is missing from the literature? Are there weaknesses that need to be addressed?
It is important to note that within certain disciplines there is an abundance of sources, debates and findings; to conduct an efficient literature review in these cases, the author can simply stick to the specialism or sources that are directly relevant to the research paper rather than approaching it as a broad topic.
The research methodology section depicts the data collection and analysis process of the research. In this component of the paper, the researcher has to explain the selected data collection methods and how they are appropriate and efficient for the kind of research that was conducted. This needs to be written in detail specifying the method, sample size, measures taken to ensure objectivity and other relevant variables.
The methodology section needs to include the following:
- The type of research conducted
- How the data was collected and analysed
- Any tools or materials the research utilized
- How research biases were avoided
- Why these methods were selected
This section solves the ‘How?’ and allows readers to evaluate the reliability and credibility of the findings.
E) Results & Analysis
The findings section in an academic research paper is where the results of the research are presented. Firstly, start by clearly stating the research objectives and hypothesis or research questions that guided your study. Then, present the data and findings in a logical and organized manner, using tables, charts, or graphs if appropriate. Interpret the findings by discussing their implications, relating them to existing literature, and addressing any limitations or potential biases. Finally, conclude the section by summarizing the key findings and their significance in relation to the research objectives.
When writing the findings section, ensure clarity and conciseness by using a straightforward and objective writing style. Avoid interpretation or speculation in this section; save that for the discussion section. Use subheadings to divide the findings into sections to ensure easy navigation for readers.
The discussion section of the research paper is where the researcher presents an in-depth analysis of the importance, relevance and description of the results. It should focus on the evaluation of the findings and associate back to the literature review and subject area, this section should discuss how the findings support your initial hypothesis.
You may include the following in your discussion section:
- Summary: A brief recap of the key results and research output
- Interpretations: What do the results mean?
- Implications: Why do the results matter?
- Limitations: What can’t the results depict?
- Recommendations: Slight modifications for further studies to get more accuracy
The conclusion is the last part of the research paper. It should be concise yet engaging, leaving the reader with a thorough recap and understanding of your findings, as well as the answer to the initial research question.
Your conclusion should include:
- The answer to your main research question
- A summary of the research process
- Depict any new knowledge you have contributed
- Wrap up your thesis or dissertation
H) References & Citations
After the conclusion, the research paper must consist of a reference list. This has to be in alphabetical order and in the correct citation format that the respective institution or discipline follows. The citation list allows readers and researchers to create a framework of knowledge and refer to articles that further support your research and argument, this allows for more educational awareness around your area of research.
Proofreading and Editing
In the world of academia, accuracy and precision is the core of the dissemination of research. Research papers are read and referenced by researchers globally hence there’s little room for error. The proofreading and editing process within academia is rigorous, everything from the format to the grammar is carefully reviewed repeatedly.
Listed below are recommended proofreading practices:
- Review grammar: Grammatical mistakes are common and often missed, it is crucial to review the placement of grammatical marks while proofreading the content. For example, s small misplacement of a comma can lead to contextual misinterpretations
- Review Clarity: The academic language is designed to eliminate bias and room for misunderstanding. It is classified as a tone of voice of it’s own to maintain it’s objective and factual nature, to avoid the lack of clarity in research papers; it is recommended to re-read and review all the written content to assess whether it is widely comprehensive.
- Seek Feedback: A fresh set of eyes on a research paper is always beneficial. Feedback can expose mistakes and misinterpretations that the author could have missed due to rigorously working on the research paper.
Writing research papers is a craft that requires thorough attention to detail. Each section of a research paper is tackled and approached in a unique way to ensure the flow of information is smooth. The methodology section ensures the reliability of the research, while the results and analysis section presents the findings in a clear and organized manner.
The discussion section provides an in-depth analysis and interpretation of the results, while the conclusion summarizes the key findings and their implications. Proper referencing and citations are essential for acknowledging the contributions of other researchers. Lastly, the proofreading and editing process ensures accuracy and clarity in the final research paper. By following these steps, researchers can effectively contribute to their respective fields, drive progress, and foster academic excellence.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long should a research paper be?
The length of research papers varies greatly depending on the topic. Research papers are in-depth, but it is common to find short research papers ranging between 2,000 and 4,000 words. More comprehensive research papers range between 10,000 to 20,000 words.
How do I choose a good research topic?
Always choose a topic you have an interest in. When you care about the topic, the research process will be more in-depth and enjoyable. Once you have a broad idea of the topic, you can then narrow down your idea by immersing yourself in reading material. It’s essential to review new and old literature on the same topic to help you understand different perspectives.
What are the common mistakes to avoid in research paper writing?
Always avoid plagiarism first and foremost, as it will impact your credibility as a researcher and writer, no matter how interesting your idea is. Other common mistakes include grammatical errors, repetition, inconsistent formatting, a weak abstract, and overly complex language.
Discover millions of e-books, journal articles, proceedings and more on Zendy now.
Breaking Down SJR Scores: A Guide to Understanding Academic Journal Performance
What is SJR? The SJR (Scimago Journal Rank) is a metric that measures the prestige and impact of scientific journals. It is based on the concept of prestige transfer via citation links. Developed by the Scimago Lab, the metric ranks journals based on the citations received by their articles and the SJR scores of the citing journals. The SJR metric considers not only the total number of citations but also the quality of the citing journals as the subject field, quality and reputation of the journal have a direct effect on the citation of SJR. A higher SJR score indicates that a journal has received more citations from other prestigious journals, signifying a higher level of influence and impact within the scientific community. However, the Scimago Journal Rank is just one of many metrics utilised to evaluate the quality and impact of scientific journals, and it should be considered alongside other measures such as the impact factor, h-index, and expert opinion when assessing the significance of a journal. Why should you utilise SJR? The Scimago Journal Rank is a public resource, meaning no subscription is needed to access and view any journal’s rank or score. SJR covers all disciplines, taking into account all relevant aspects of a journal tailored to the subject area. Moreover, the rankings are optimised to factor in the differences in citation behaviour between disciplines. It can be argued that SJR is a well-rounded metric, here are some key benefits of utilising it: Evaluate journal quality SJR provides a quantitative measure of the prestige and impact of scientific journals. The score considers both the number of citations received by a journal and the quality of the citing journal. By utilising SJR, you can easily assess the relative importance and influence of different journals within a discipline. Identify influential journals SJR scores journals based on their impact and visibility within the scientific community. The score can identify the most influential journals in your area of research, allowing you to target your publications to maximise their impact and reach. Compare journals within a field SJR provides a comprehensive comparison of different journals within a discipline. You can assess the standing and ranks of journals based on their SJR scores and determine which ones are more widely recognised by the scientific community. Benchmark research output SJR also provides rankings at national and institutional levels. It can assist in benchmarking the research output of different countries or institutions, enabling you to assess their scientific productivity. Stay updated on scientific trends By regularly consulting SJR, you can keep track of the evolving landscape of scientific journals, including emerging journals, new research areas, and trends within your field of interest. How is SJR calculated? The SJR (Scimago Journal Rank) is calculated using a methodology that counts the number of citations a journal receives. The source of citations is also taken into account; citations from prestigious citing journals. The steps involved in calculating the SJR score are: Collection of data: The methodology is initiated by collecting data on citations from Scopus, which is a comprehensive bibliographic database of scientific literature. Weighting citations: Each citation received by an article within the journal is weighted based on the importance of the citing journal. The methodology considers the SJR of the citing journal as an indicator of its prestige. Higher-ranked journals contribute more to the SJR score of the journal being evaluated. Normalisation: To account for differences in citation practices between fields of study, the SJR algorithm implements a normalisation process. This process adjusts variations in citation patterns and citation potential across different disciplines. Prestige of the citing journals: Journals that receive citations from more prestigious and influential journals are given higher weight in the calculation. Journal self-citations: Self-citations, which are citations made by a journal to its own articles, are excluded from the SJR calculation. This ensures that self-referencing does not influence a journal's SJR score. Iterative calculation: The Scimago Journal Rank is calculated iteratively, taking into account the rank scores of the citing journals. This iterative process helps adjust the scores and establish a relative ranking of journals within specific subject categories. What are the limitations of SJR? While the SJR (Scimago Journal Rank) metric is widely used and provides valuable insights regarding the impact of scientific journals, it is important to consider its limitations. Some of the limitations of the SJR metric are: Subjectivity of Journal Rankings The rankings provided by SJR are based on algorithms that consider citation data and the prestige of citing journals. However, the determination of prestige is subjective and can vary across different research communities or disciplines. The choice of specific journals in the Scopus database can also have biases in the rankings. Limited Coverage SJR relies on the Scopus database for citation data, which may not include all journals across all disciplines. Certain fields or niche journals may be underrepresented in the database, leading to an incomplete representation of the research landscape. Focus on Citations SJR heavily relies on citation data as the primary focus of a journal's impact. While citations can be a significant unit of measurement, they do not capture other aspects of a journal's quality, such as editorial standards, scientific rigour, or societal impact. The metric does not assess factors like the published research's novelty, originality, or practical applicability. Time Lag SJR scores are updated annually, which means there can be a time lag in reflecting the most recent developments and impact of journals. This delay may not capture the immediate influence of newly published research. Field Normalisation Challenges While the Scimago Journal Rank attempts to normalise citations across different fields, variations in citation practices and publishing patterns can still have biases. Certain disciplines may have higher citation rates due to their nature or popularity, leading to potential imbalances in the rankings. Limited Transparency The specific details of the algorithm used to calculate SJR scores, including the weighting and normalisation methods, are proprietary information and not publicly disclosed. This lack of transparency can make it difficult to fully understand and critique the metric. What is the difference between Scimago Journal Rank and Journal Impact Factor? The journal impact factor is a measure of the frequency with which the average article in a journal has been cited in a particular year. It is used to measure the importance or rank of a journal by calculating the times its articles are cited. The calculation is based on a two-year period and involves dividing the number of times articles were cited by the number of articles that are citable. The main differentiating point of SJR and Journal Impact Factor is that the Scimago Journal Rank measures prestige and Journal Impact Factor measures citation impact. Both metrics utilise citations to settle a journal’s score. Moreover, both metrics rely on different databases, SJR relies on Scopus while Journal Impact Factor relies on Journal Citation Reports (JCR), these well-reputed databases assist the algorithms with which each score is decided. Additionally, SJR scores are optimised to compare journals across disciplines while the journal impact factor is not; using this metric you may only compare journals within one discipline. In conclusion, the Scimago Journal Rank is a valuable metric that determines the prestige of a specific journal. This article explored why as researchers, you should be utilising SJR and how it is calculated while highlighting the metric's limitations. To help you gain a better understanding, the article also included a brief comparison between the Scimago Journal Rank and Journal Impact Factor. While SJR is arguably a well-rounded metric, it should not be the only method of analysis and should be considered along with other metrics and expert opinions to draw final conclusions about a specific journal.
Investigating Sci-Hub: An Exploration of the Strengths and Limitations
Valuable scientific research papers are usually stored behind paywalls. Sci-Hub is a platform that emerged in 2011 as a means to ‘remove all barriers in science’ while the initiative and establishment of Sci-Hub made strides within the open access movement, various questions and concerns have been raised about piracy and intellectual rights infringements as well is how the future of research will be impacted. From individual authors and researchers to publishing giants, this blog presents a comprehensive framework of the strengths and limitations of platforms like Sci-Hub. What is Sci-Hub? Sci-Hub is a website that provides free access to scientific research papers and academic articles that are behind paywalls. It was founded by Alexandra Elbakyan in 2011, with the goal of making scientific knowledge accessible to anyone, regardless of their financial resources or institutional affiliations. The site uses proxy servers to bypass the paywalls of major scientific publishers and provide users with free access to articles that would otherwise require a paid subscription. The use of Sci-Hub is controversial, as it is illegal in many countries and has been the subject of lawsuits by major publishers. However, it has also gained a large following among researchers and scholars who see it as a way to access scientific research. Why so many are attracted to Sci-Hub? An eminent argument is that Sci-Hub disseminates scientific research papers within emerging regions globally, this is done with no restrictions and in an effort to enhance the accessibility of research. As an open access platform, the establishment of Sci-Hub adds pressure on publishers, libraries and databases alike to provide open access alternatives to level the field within academia. Providing access to high-quality scientific research in emerging countries not only promotes equality within academia but also has the potential to increase the contribution from these countries and provide new perspectives and areas of study within research communities. Moreover, research papers are undoubtedly impacted positively by increased visibility and transparency. Why is Sci-Hub controversial? As Sci-Hub gains popularity, it is a controversial platform known to part-take in copyright infringement. The platform operates by providing free access to scientific research papers that are behind paywalls. By bypassing these restrictions, Sci-Hub has published and disseminated a vast collection of copyrighted material without the permission of publishers, making it a hub for copyright infringement. Due to Sci-Hub operating outside the traditional publishing model and obtaining its content illegally, this flags significant quality control issues; without the peer review process and editorial supervision provided by reputable journals, there is a concern about the research being disseminated by Sci-Hub. While Sci-Hub has gained popularity; Sci-Hub also does not provide key metrics. This impacts the revenue streams of publishers and individual authors as the metrics to track and produce credibility are not taken into account. This lost data has the potential to negatively impact current and future research communities. Metrics like downloads and citations are significant to assessing a researcher’s credibility and career, Sci-Hub does not allow researchers or readers to access this information which creates a roadblock for research communities to operate on reliable metrics. Furthermore, Sci-Hub undermines traditional publishing methods. Due to the platform not relying on article fees and subscriptions; the platform cannot fund the dissemination of quality scientific research. While Sci-Hub’s mission is to increase accessibility, this can be challenging as the platform has been banned in several countries because of Sci-Hub’s illegal methods of obtaining content, it is worth mentioning that the platform has been accused of using email phishing methods and gaining access to 42 university databases. In addition, the research available on Sci-Hub is not reviewed or updated making the research old and less relevant. What actions can the research industry take? Undoubtedly, platforms like Sci-Hub exist because of the gaps present in the research sector. To discourage the use of illegal platforms like Sci-Hub, the research industry can take several significant actions, such as making research papers more affordable and widely available, improving the quality and scope of open access research papers, negotiating better deals with publishers, and substantially increasing public funding for research. Additionally, researchers can publish their work in open access journals or deposit their manuscripts in institutional repositories, which can make their work more accessible. An increase in awareness about the implications on the research community of using pirated content can also help discourage the use of sites like Sci-Hub by readers and learners. In conclusion, the principle that Sci-Hub was built on is to grant access to emerging regions, low-income students and researchers to the world of scientific research. While this is an admirable foundation, the dismissal of the established processes in the industry is harmful to the future of researchers. To significantly reduce the usage of pirated platforms, all stakeholders in the publishing spectrum must work together to create and promote affordable and accessible models of dissemination. Discover millions of journal articles, e-books, proceedings and so much more now on Zendy.
Assessing the Importance of Analytics in Academic Research
In the current data-driven era, the importance of analytics in academic research cannot be overstated. Analytics help determine editorial decisions and give publishers insight into how their publications are being consumed, making analytics an indispensable tool for researchers across both STEM and HSS fields. In this blog, we assess and explore how analytics enable researchers to extract insights and make evidence-based decisions while also considering the benefits and limitations of analytics within academic research. Benefits of analytics Analytics within academic research provides insight into how research papers are being utilised by readers, taking into account the platforms the research is being consumed on, the citations it receives and how it is being shared. Analysing metrics relevant to academic research helps to identify author and reader behaviour. This results in informed editorial decisions, along with better Analytics also allow academic research publishers to streamline their workflow by calculating submission and acceptance timelines. This also has the potential to depict and analyse peer-review times and provides a thorough analysis of the data mentioned within a manuscript submission. Identifying the most cited research within a specific discipline can benefit authors' own academic research with accurate sources from well-reputed journals and/or authors. Consuming academic research from legal platforms which respect copyright guidelines aid publishers in collecting accurate data to produce and publish new academic research papers. Furthermore, this collection of data and metrics aids researchers advance within their careers as it helps establish researcher credibility through H-index scores and other metrics. Drawbacks of analytics The collection and analysis of reader data to depict usage and engagement can raise privacy concerns especially if personal details are also extracted. The data collected within academic research can be biased or misinterpreted if not examined rigorously. For example, data on citations and downloads may not accurately convey the impact of research but rather the popularity of the author or journal. The growth of analytics in academic research may create an overreliance on metrics. This can potentially shift the focus to trending topics and authors rather than original, relevant and impactful research. Currently, there is no standard method for collecting and reporting analytical data within academic research. This lack of standardisation leaves room for misinterpretation, fabrication and biased numbers. Platforms like Z-library, which provide free but illegal access to academic research and publications, pose a threat to the analytics used by publishers. Z Library bypasses traditional publishing by engaging in the unauthorised sharing of copyrighted content. It hosts digital copies of books without the explicit permission of the authors or publishers. This violates copyright laws and intellectual property rights. This can undermine the ability of publishers to make data-driven decisions about which articles to publish and promote, and can also affect the accuracy of analytics data. Which in turn affects the measurement of the true impact of academic research publications. In conclusion, the growth of analytics within academic research is undeniable. While metrics allow publishers, authors and readers to depict how accurate their sources are and how well their research papers are performing, this comes at the cost of potential privacy concerns, fabrication of data and the lack of a standardised approach to collecting and reporting analytical data. However, investing time and resources to establish safe practices that produce accurate metrics can greatly benefit all parties involved in academic research; publishers can use this data to cater to readers by creating personalised lists and recommendations while also encouraging researchers to work within certain subject areas across different disciplines. Discover millions of journal articles, e-books, proceedings and so much more now on Zendy.